Most of us have daydreamed about giving back to the institutions that helped shape us. But for many, a financial contribution large enough to make an impact seems like an impossibility. Karla Krampert Walters, a 1969 Union College graduate, found a way.
Years ago, Walters read in CORDmagazine about Jerry and Jane Thayer’s contributions to Union College through their IRAs. The story stuck with Walters, who had completed her student teaching under Jane Thayer at College View Academy. “What I learned about teaching from her has been an important part of my professional life for over 50 years,” Walters says.
That personal connection and the similarities in their paths caused Walters to consider how she, too, could give back to the college she loves. “Like the Thayers, my husband, Ken, and I have spent our lives in education, earning teacher’s salaries. I was impressed that Jerry and Jane Thayer found a way to make a difference by contributing in a systematic way to Union College.”
In 2019, Walters set up the Karla Krampert Walters Endowment for Faculty Excellence, a permanent endowment to support faculty by funding continuing professional development. She says she was motivated to create the endowment because during her career she had discovered that “professors are often isolated from others who share their intellectual interests.” She adds, “It is essential for college teachers to be given opportunities to connect with others with current ideas and developments in their fields. Their students are the ones to benefit as well, as they realize when professors are sharing the most current approaches and essential ideas.”
The endowment can be used by professors in any department, and Walters says she specifically did not restrict the funds in order to give the college the flexibility to use the funds where they were most needed while developing and evolving their approach to continuing education.
“Endowments and scholarships are long-lasting ways to give,” says Ken Farrow, Union College’s director of leadership giving, who worked with Walters to create her endowment. “The principal is kept safe and the funds are invested to create income for future generations.”
Speaking about Walters’ endowment, Farrow says, “This endowment is a tool we can use to recruit employees and students. These are consistent funds that offer amazing opportunities for our faculty to remain current in their fields. I was most excited about seeing Karla and Ken, who were both academics, take these steps to make sure Union’s faculty won’t have the same struggles they had in connecting with colleagues.”
A Life of Service
Walters graduated from Union in June 1969 and married her husband, Ken, one week later. The couple moved to Berkeley, California, and Walters accepted a job teaching middle school math and language arts. She later earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in English at the University of Oregon and proceeded to teach at Tacoma Community College; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; and the University of New Mexico. She retired in 2013 and continues to serve as an examiner for International Baccalaureate assessments.
“Working together with many public-school teachers and student teachers, I realized how rare and wonderful my own student teaching experience had been at Union College,” she says. “I am very grateful for the education I received at Union College.”
Walters’ parents modeled philanthropy to her from her early years. Her father worked with the Nature Conservancy to preserve native prairie near her Wisconsin hometown. Her mother, too, was generous, giving her time and talents to the church. “Combined, my parents instilled in me both a strong value for education and the idea of committing my talents and resources to make opportunities available to future generations,” she says. And her time at Union helped reinforce those lessons: “What I learned more than anything at Union College was a service ethic, the idea that everyone has talents that can serve the world.”
Now, Walters is using her generosity to impact the next generation and encouraging others to do the same. “Union College is near and dear to my heart, and I want to help make the kind of educational experience I had to continue for the next generation by doing a little bit to fund opportunities for the faculty. I would like all alumni to contribute in any way they find possible to support the future of the college, as a way of saluting those who have had the vision to keep the lights of learning and service burning at Union College.”
To learn more about setting up an endowment, scholarship, or other gift, contact Ken Farrow, Director of Leadership Giving, at email@example.com or 402.486.2600, ext. 2200.
By Lauren Bongard Schwarz, Union graduate and freelance writer from Bozeman, Montana.